Thursday, January 1, 2009

The "Dignity," and Crimes Against Humanity in Gaza

On Tuesday morning at around 5:00 A.M., a vessel traveling in the eastern Mediterranean was intercepted and came under attack by Israeli gunboats; this, while traveling in international waters and some distance from the coast of the besieged Gaza strip, where the Israeli military has unleashed its full might upon the nearly defenseless Palestinian population there. On board the Dignity were doctors, journalists, humanitarian workers, and former Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney. Also on board, were approximately three tons of medical supplies that were to be delivered, at the request of doctors in Gaza, to help alleviate the humanitarian crises that currently exists there. The crew and passengers were hoping to evacuate wounded Palestinians to other locations due to the inability of area hospitals to cope with the crises they are now facing.

As passengers and crew headed toward Gaza in stormy seas on Tuesday morning, the Israeli gunboats fired machine guns into the water close to the humanitarian ship; one such gunboat rammed the Dignity on the port side of her bow. According to eyewitness reports, the vessel was rammed three times. After the attack, the Dignity reported that it was taking on water and had some engine trouble. With the serious damage the ship had sustained, it had to change course and headed toward Lebanon for repairs. The Dignity flies the flag of Gibraltar, is under the command of a British captain, and was clearly attacked in international waters; this, in direct violation of maritime law.

In recent weeks the Israeli navy has been harassing and kidnapping fishermen and human-rights activists, who have been attempting to bring food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies into Gaza in order to relieve the human suffering that is taking place there. These maritime harassments against humanitarian-aid and human-rights observers are only a part of the slow strangulation - a form of collective punishment that Israel has been implementing against the residents of Gaza since Hamas, an organization on the terrorist lists of both Israel and the United States, saw a huge victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections in January 2006 and especially, since that organization took control of Gaza in June of 2007.

Life has not been easy for the Palestinians in general, especially since Israel began the construction of a so-called "security fence" that is designed to separate Israel from its Palestinian neighbors. Many prefer to call this fence an "apartheid wall." When completed, this West Bank Barrier will seal off the entire population of the West Bank from both Israel proper and other Palestinians trapped in the Gaza Strip, where a completed wall already leaves them isolated and virtually cut off from the rest of the world.

Israel's newly-constructed wall, which has been condemned by the International Court of Justice has had a devastating effect upon the Palestinian people. The situation in Gaza, particularly since the Hamas takeover, can only be described as dire; this, even before Israel launched its brutal attack upon Gaza this past Saturday.

For months those living in the Gaza strip have fallen victim to a sort of slow starvation. Food, medical supplies and fuel necessary for the operation of the area's electrical plant are routinely denied by the Israeli government. Residents are being forced to live without electricity for most of the time due to the imposed fuel shortage and therefore, are facing the complete breakdown of sanitary conditions. There is precious little clean drinking water, garbage and sewage is piling up, and the people are being forced to live in what has been referred to as an "open cesspool." Further, the Israeli military has been attempting to keep the news media and humanitarian workers from getting anywhere near Gaza; this, likely in an attempt to evade further international observation and the subsequent condemnation for its actions.

On Saturday, Israel began an aerial bombardment upon the People of Palestine, which many are calling a holocaust. The justification for this massive military action has been explained as defensive action as a result of Hamas' Kassam rocket fire into southern Israel that has resumed in recent weeks. Still, as Dennis Rahkonen brings out in his article entitled The Truth About Those Hamas Rockets, the rockets being used amount to little more than "slingshots" against Israel's military might. Of course, to those Israelis living in the line of fire, these rockets can be quite frightening. The truth however, is that there has been very little death or serious injury as a result of these rocket attacks.
Of course, Israel has a right to defend itself, but the response to the rocket attacks with the brute force of "shock and awe" that is currently being employed by Israel against all the Palestinian people living in Gaza simply cannot be justified; at least, not in the opinion of this writer.

Since Saturday, almost 400 have died and countless others have been seriously wounded. Area hospitals are unable to cope with the situation; this, due in part to the Israeli blockade of the entire Gaza Strip. It was for this reason that the Dignity was attempting to lend humanitarian aid to a terrorized and besieged people. After the vessel safely made it to the Lebanese port city of Tyre, former Congresswoman McKinney was interviewed by CNN. At the time, she called upon President-Elect Obama to please say something about the humanitarian crises in Gaza. She went on to say this to her former congressional colleagues:

"I would like to ask my former colleagues in the United States Congress to stop sending weapons of mass destruction around the world. As we are about to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday, let us remember what he said. He said that the United States is the greatest purveyor of violence on the planet. And guess what: We experienced a little bit of that violence, because the weapons that are being used by Israel are weapons that were supplied by the United States government."

Neither President-Elect Obama, the supposed candidate for change who once said that "we are our brother's keeper," nor Mrs. Mckinney's former congressional colleagues have uttered a word about Gaza's humanitarian crises. Their silence is deafening.

Above photo by Fidaa Abuhamdiya for Gaza coverage called "il massacro."

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